Editor's note: This story was updated with a comment from state Rep. Matt Rinaldi and the current status of the bill.

When a procedural maneuver in the Texas House helped kill consideration of a school lunch measure Tuesday, the bill's author took to the floor and questioned whether legislators were truly serving their constituents' interests.

But state Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, remains hopeful that her measure can still pass this session.

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"I think we'll get something out for these children," she said. "They deserve better than what we've done for them." 

House Bill 2159 would ban school districts from identifying students without enough money in their school lunch accounts. It would also allow families a grace period to resolve an insufficient balance on a meal card.

The legislation faced no opposition at the committee stage. It was expected to easily pass the House on the uncontested calendar. But five members objected to it, ending its consideration Tuesday.

The members who objected were Republican Reps. Matt Rinaldi of Irving, Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, Briscoe Cain of Deer Park, Tony Tinderholt of Arlington and Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg.

In an emailed statement to the Tribune, Rinaldi said Texas public schools already provide access to free and reduced lunch. He added that Giddings "attempted to mislead" the House about what her bill did.

"It's a mandate on our local schools which will cost more money," Rinaldi said. "I will ensure all children have food to eat and don't believe we need to micromanage school districts to do it."

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In a fiscal note on the bill, the Legislative Budget Board said the bill "would result in some costs to school districts to extend credit and provide free meals to students with overdue meal accounts." The costs would vary by district.

On Tuesday, Giddings, a 13-term lawmaker, gave an impassioned speech explaining her motivations for the legislation.

Giddings said she's optimistic she could still get HB 2159 passed when lawmakers consider the next uncontested calendar Friday. (Update, May 12: HB 2159 failed to be heard on Friday's consent calendar, but Rep. Giddings says she language from the bill has been added to a pair of Senate bills.)

"It's such an important issue that we will not just take one chance at it. We're also going to be looking to amend other bills to include this provision for children," she said.

Alex Samuels contributed to this report.

 

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